In a recent article from USA Today, according to the Barna Research Group, it is revealed that “every subgroup of religion, race, gender, age and region of the country, the important markers of religious connection are fracturing.” It appears that people are leaving Christian churches and Christianity altogether in droves. This evidence is being corroborated by others taking the time to research it. Here are a few others sources documenting this growing trend.
I believe some of the information in these articles is skewed. Many Americans identify themselves as Christians because it is part of the culture, not because they are truly Christ followers. Nevertheless the losing of religion and faith is a growing trend. Why is this happening? Well, in my opinion the reasons are numerous, but I really want to hammer in on three important points.
1. The Gospel Has Been Perverted
But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say? Luke 6:46
Today’s American brand of Christianity has largely become a mere system of beliefs tailored to save individuals from the fires of hell, and to fill the coffers of the plethora of churches outlining every area of the country. People are led to believe that all it takes to live the Christian life is to believe in Jesus, repeat the sinner’s prayer and perhaps faithfully attend church services. Man has recreated his own version of Jesus who is nothing more than a life preserver, who is able to rescue mankind from drowning. But, his Lordship and guidance over our daily living has gone ignored. As a result, too many are stuck in the ocean on the life preserver waiting to get devoured by some hungry shark or overcome by the waters. To be a Christian means to be like Christ. We must not only believe in Him, we must do as he did and live as he lived. The reason Jesus was able to overcome sin and live above the trials, temptations, and troubles that plague all of humanity is because he never strayed from being in communion and willing submission to his Heavenly Father.
You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. John 39-40
Wherever religion and adherence to specific doctrines, rules and regulations and obedience to authority is stressed, there you will find many dissatisfied, disillusioned Christians wondering what they got themselves into. In contrast, where the focus is on having a genuine, personal, intimate, give and take relationship with the Author of our faith there is life, hope, love and strength. Life does not come from church attendance, preaching, teaching, good works, belief in the right doctrine, or by listening to this pastor or that teacher. Life comes from communing with the giver of all life. It is our knowing God for ourselves that we have life. This is where much of Christianity is amiss. Too many are dependent upon one another for their life in people to people, horizontal relationships. Too many lack a vertical relationship directly with God. Where the spirit of the Lord is there is liberty!
And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. Matthew 10:38
The gospel of salvation has been cheapened. The Church has transitioned from making lifelong, cross-bearing disciples of Christ, to lukewarm converts lacking commitment, knowledge, and true love for God. Far too many leaders in the Church are more concerned with growing their numbers instead of training people in how to live the Christian life. Many new Christian converts remain in infancy and never grow into adulthood. They are stuck drinking milk, partially because they are not fed properly by those entrusted to do so and partly because many have no true desire to make Jesus the Lord of their lives. Let’s face it, many Christians want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to have all of the benefits God promises those who love him, but also do not want to give up sinful desires and pursuits.
You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? James 2:19-20
Mental agreement with the truth of scripture is good. However, it is not the mark of true faith. Faith, as James mentions in his New Testament letter must be accompanied by a demonstrative life. Works will not save anyone, but if we say we believe, than our lives will validate our confession and we will bear fruit.
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. Galatians 1:6-7
The gospel that is being preached throughout much of the church world is not the same gospel that Jesus and his apostles preached. It is a message of cheap grace that enables its hearers to live however they see fit while still retaining the Christian moniker. As a result, those on the outside have been poisoned as well. When they see that Christian marriages end in divorce as often as non-Christian ones, where is the hope? When they see Christian leaders living lifestyles of the rich and famous while many in their congregations are barely surviving, does this make them want to give their lives to Jesus?
Ministers have become part salesman, part motivational speaker and part CEO. Outsiders can see this and are not being fooled. It is driving them to apathy, atheism, agnosticism and other religions quicker than you can say apostasy.
2. The Church is Full of Hypocrites
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence (excess). Matthew 23:25
If you want to know the other major reason for why Christianity in America is in shambles, it lies in the two words extortion and excess. Here are the original Greek language definitions for the words Jesus used to describe the leaders of organized religion during his lifetime.
Greek translation: harpagē
Definition: the act of plundering, robbery
Greek translation: akrasia
Definition: want of self-control, incontinence, intemperance
Just to make it a little bit more clear what is being said by Jesus to the hypocrites, let’s look at a couple more scriptures containing the words for extortion and excess.
For you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering (harpagē ) of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. Hebrews 10:34
Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (akrasia). I Corinthians 7:5
In the first example, Paul is encouraging and praising the saints for their willingness to suffer for Christ especially in the taking away of their material possessions. The second scripture reveals that a married couple should not deprive one another of sexual fulfillment except for a time of mutual agreement. He implies that prolonged abstinence within a marriage can cause temptation because of a lack of self-control.
Can it be any more obvious that Jesus accused the religious leaders of his era of being thieves who lacked self-control relating to sexual desires? I dare say that the two most prevalent reasons that people are leaving the church is because they are being robbed and sexually abused! How many stories have surfaced over the years about church leaders being exposed in these types of scandals? It doesn’t matter the denomination, creed or color. This is a universal problem. If you don’t believe me, then maybe some of these headlines will convince you.
Unfortunately, the church has had problems like this for ages. But because of the media age we live in, they are now being made public like never before. Remember the Bible saying that secret deeds would be brought to light? (Luke 8:17)
The church and Christianity in general are becoming bad words in our society. Because people have a hard time separating what they see in people claiming to love God from God himself, they are increasingly throwing it all away. People have grown tired of the hypocrisy they are witnessing among much of the church. They are no longer willing to tolerate the plundering of their goods to feed the self-indulgent appetites of their “leaders.” The statistics are proving this to be true. The sheep are being scattered largely because the shepherds have been derelict in their duties. Evil men have crept into the church and have used it as a business venture and instead of a living, breathing community of people committed to Christ and his principles.
3. Satan Knows His Time Is Short
Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time. Revelation 12:12
Christianity has been subverted by stealth. Jesus warned the disciples to be aware of the leaven (doctrine) of the Pharisees, knowing that just a little bit of it would leaven a whole lump. We have now arrived at the time when the hypocritical false doctrine of the religious leaders of our day has leavened the whole lump of American Christianity.
Much of the writings in the New Testament are warnings about false brethren creeping into the church to pervert its message. The books penned by Paul, Peter, James, Jude, and John all contain frequent references to a time when the church would be overrun with wolves in sheep’s clothing. Jude called them “wells without water” and “grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage.” Peter calls them “presumptuous and self-willed” adding, “many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.” Paul states plainly, “also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” Acts 20:30
Because Satan has been loosed he knows his time is short. He and his minions have ramped up their efforts to bring about the drastic changes you see as thousands are departing from the faith. His evil ministers have transformed themselves into angels of light on an unsuspecting population of immature, milk-toast Christians. One of Satan’s greatest deceptions is getting people to believe they can be a Christian without following Christ. It is the great lie that making Jesus Lord of our lives is optional. However, unless we are committed to Jesus in a faithful, committed relationship, then we are outside of His divine covenant and protection.
Jesus’ mandate was to abide in Him. It is only through our abiding in Him that we can bear fruit. Jesus said, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:6) Remember that there will be many that will mention to Him all the great things they have done in His name only to be told that He never knew them and to depart from Him. There is no salvation apart from an abiding relationship with its Author. A one-time confession of belief does not equal salvation.
The scriptures tell us plainly that there would come a time when there would be a mass defection from the faith. All of the research being done by groups like Barna, Pew, etc. are confirming this.
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron… I Timothy 4:1-2
Satan’s ministers have infiltrated the church and performed a successful coup. You might think this is impossible because Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail against his church. This statement couldn’t be more true. However, much of what calls itself Christ’s church is not his church. This is where the deception lies. Much of the teaching that Christian’s are listening to these days come from the mouths of seducing spirits speaking through pastors, bishops, elders, prophets, apostles, teachers, etc. They are listening to another spirit, believing another gospel, and following a different Jesus. (2 Corinth 11:4)
There is a false brand of Christianity that is highly visible, attractive, and corrupting to all who follow it. It is glitzy, glamorous, and promises wealth, health, and God’s best right now. It ignores suffering, persecution, trials and tribulations as if they were the devil himself. It loves to be seen and rubs shoulders with people in high places. It is full of flattery and loves to beguile its followers into forking over their material goods to keep it wealthy. It is full of hypocrisy, extortion, and excess. It is not the faith that was entrusted to the saints to earnestly contend for throughout the age. Its name is Ichabod (the glory of God has departed).
In my opinion, it is better to have never heard the name of Jesus than to believe in this false version that is being worshipped today. It is because of this false brand of Christianity that the way of truth is being blasphemed. Those who need and desire truth are being hindered by those holding the keys of knowledge, but not walking in it. But, God knows who his people are and will feed them like the ravens fed Elijah while hiding out in the most remote places. We serve a Mighty God who is willing and able to care for his sheep and will protect them from every trick of the enemy if they will follow his lead!